Arizona (15-7, 6-5 Pac-10) shot 57 percent from the field and ended Washington's three-game winning streak.
TUCSON, Ariz. — Three straight wins had convinced Washington coach Lorenzo Romar that the Huskies were heading in the right direction.
An 84-54 loss here to Arizona this afternoon, however, elicited the obvious thought afterward.
“No doubt, it was a step back today,” Romar said.
The Huskies might have taken two steps, but that would have required more effort than they were apparently ready to give.
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“I thought we would have competed harder today,” Romar said.
And that damning charge loomed over everything in a loss that was the second-worst loss of Romar’s five-year UW coaching tenure — the worst being an 89-57 defeat at Arizona State on Jan. 9, 2003, midway through his first season.
Once again in a road game against a marquee team — Gonzaga, UCLA, Washington State being the others — the Huskies were outworked, outtoughed and outclassed from the opening tip.
“We didn’t come out with the right attitude and we paid for it,” said UW center Spencer Hawes.
Maybe the Huskies simply aren’t good enough to win that kind of game right now.
But Romar would like to have the chance to find out, saying his team never gave itself a chance to win.
“That’s the big thing we talk about more than anything with our team — competing and being tough,” Romar said. “We talk about that a lot and it’s something we’ve got to get better at. … We’ve got to understand how important it is and obviously I’ve got to do a better job of getting our guys to understand it.”
That may be all that’s left to accomplish this season as the Huskies were dreadful in a game that loomed as a benchmark in determining whether they really have any legitimate hope of landing an NCAA Tournament berth, which had been revived with the wins the last two weeks against Oregon, Oregon State and Arizona State.
Instead, UW is now 14-8 overall and 4-7 in conference play and remains in eighth place
Arizona, meanwhile, busted out of a slump that had seen it lose six of eight since a win Jan. 4 in Seattle against the Huskies.
“It was critical to have a game like this,” said Arizona coach Lute Olson whose team is now 15-7 and 6-5.
Arizona had shot better than 50 percent just once since leaving Seattle (Arizona made 65.3 percent in a 96-87 win over the Huskies at Edmundson Pavilion). But the sight of the Huskies revived their shooting stroke as the Wildcats hit 31-54 for the game (57.4 percent).
“The trick was to make sure they didn’t get open looks in the beginning of the game to get them confident,” Romar said. “That was the plan, but obviously it was not executed because they came out and they did get open looks.”
Freshman Chase Budinger hit 5-6 shots in the first half as Arizona opened up a 45-26 halftime lead.
But the Wildcats also dominated inside, outrebounding the Huskies 42-25 — only the second time all year UW has been outboarded — and holding Washington to 24-63 shooting (38.1 percent). UW was just 3-20 on three-pointers.
“We settled for the three too often,” Romar said. “We were in too much of a hurry to get a three.”
But there often seemed little else to do as Spencer Hawes was outplayed by Arizona freshman Jordan Hill, finishing with just six points — tying his second-lowest total as a Husky — and Jon Brockman played just 17 minutes after picking up his fourth foul early in the second half.
“I just had a bad game,” Hawes said. “I don’t know what it was.”
Unlike some of UW’s other losses, however, there seemed no mitigating circumstances in this one. The team thought it had gotten over its road woes with the win at Arizona State Thursday and health was not an issue.
“I don’t think there’s any excuse for this one,” Hawes admitted.
If there was a silver lining, it was that frustration that players admitted feeling didn’t appear to be resulting in fingerpointing, everyone sharing in the blame.
“The entire team wasn’t working as hard as it should have,” said point guard Justin Dentmon.
Why that would be this late in the season, with so much on the line, was harder to figure.
“At this point, I don’t know (why),” Romar said.